Alaskan Point Guard The Hot Topic For SCU

Nov. 14, 2001

San Jose Mercury News

Leavey Center, home of the Santa Clara men's basketball team, looks new. So does the point guard.

Gone is Brian Jones, a tough team leader who could, and did, take over games when needed. The new guy in the tradition of Jones and predecessor Steve Nash is Kyle Bailey, a sophomore who looks longingly at the newspaper every day and yearns for those autumn temperatures 22 degrees below freezing in his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska.

``The high today was 10,'' Bailey said. ``I don't really like the weather here. I definitely want it to be colder. Or hotter. It's always in between.''

Hotter describes the expectations for Bailey or anyone else following the Broncos' point guard tradition established by Dick Davey, the dean of West Coast Conference coaches.

``I'm trying not to let this be a weight on me because that would have a negative effect on my game,'' Bailey said after practice had ended on one of those terrible, sunny Bay Area afternoons in which the temperature refused to budge out of the low 70s. ``I'm trying to take this as a good thing. This shows the coaches have faith in me.

``The one thing I picked up from Brian was that he always played hard. The one thing you can control is your intensity.''

The one aspect of Bailey's game that could be superior to Jones' is shooting, as the 6-foot-2 second-year player will display in the gussied-up digs that used to be the pressurized Teflon dome known as Toso Pavilion.

``We'll have more of a big-time atmosphere,'' Davey said about the Broncos' remodeled home. ``The future is bright for the facility, at least. Now when someone talks to you, you can hear him. It used to be we'd stand by the court shouting and we still couldn't hear each other.''

Despite losing their points (16.0 a game) and assists (4.1) leader in Jones and their best rebounder in Jamie Holmes (7.4), the Broncos have been picked to finish no lower than third in the WCC because the only lose two starters from a 20-12 team and because Davey commands a ton of respect.

``The biggest concern as a coach is that we don't have anyone with the toughness of Brian Jones or Jamie Holmes,'' Davey said. ``We don't have anyone that mature in the program.

``Brian was so competitive. For any of his shortcomings, we won a lot of games because of his tenacity whether it was defensively, offensively or rebounding or whatever. There is no one who has emerged for us with that type of personality.''

Davey can only hope that some of Jones' prize-fighter approach rubbed off on those who remain.

The top three returning players are outside gunner forward Steve Ross, skinny senior center David Emslie and shooting guard Brian Vaka. Justin Holbrook, who started 10 games last season, is also back.

Perhaps sensing a need for rebounding down the road, Davey recruited two accomplished high school boardmen, 6-8 Scott Borchart from Newbury and 6-8 Jordan Legge from Mesa, Ariz.

And down the road, Davey is thinking about starting 5-9 freshman point guard Bakari Altheimer from Oakland's St. Elizabeth's High and moving Bailey to shooting guard. Davey said he's worried about breaking full-court presses Jones used to overcome unilaterally by merely dribbling upcourt and daring anyone to get in his way.

``He'll be a backup for a while,'' Davey said of Altheimer. ``Whether he is a backup all year remains to be seen. There's too much to try to learn.

``Brian was a pretty good teacher for Kyle last year. Kyle is just a sophomore. He's trying to figure out where first base is. But Kyle can score and that's always encouraging. . . . He's not afraid to take the big shot, not afraid to tell people what to do and where to go.''